More and more I think it is a mistake to think that the more productive you are, the happier you’ll be. I have been working like mad on a recent project, cranked out thousands of words, and at the end of the days, all I feel is exhausted. Nervous. Wrung out. I’ve noticed this on days that I produce a tremendous amount of art, too. The making feels good, and it feels somewhat good to look back on what I’ve produced, but it also reminds me of all that I didn’t produce. And all I wrote that, tomorrow, probably won’t even be that great. Productivity does not equal happiness for me. I do not seek it there.
Still — always? — thinking about seasons.
An extinction distinction.
I’ve been working on cataloging 13 years worth of my newspaper blackout work. It’s a very high-tech system: I sit in front of the computer with my big numbered binders and transcribe each poem into a big text file.
For me, there is a spiritual crush that happens when going through this much old work. You realize, that just like everything else, 90% of your work is mediocre at best. Most of it is crap. (Mary Karr once said reading old work is like a dog sniffing old turds.)
Still, there’s that 10%. (Is the binder 90% empty, or 10% full?) If 9 out of 10 poems are mediocre, there’s that 1 left that’s pretty good. And you couldn’t have gotten that 1 poem without those 9 bad ones. One poem that’s pretty good is better than no poem at all.
Better than nothing.
PS. The music in the video is Ravel, played wonderfully by The Emerson Quartet.
This is how I often feel about putting work out into the world.